A Kingdom in Crisis

by Martine Extermann | April 01, 2009

The king was desperate. He was a God-fearing man and from his youngest age he had sought God. Now, trying to rid God’s people of idols, he had undertaken major repairs in the Lord’s temple but he had just realized that his efforts were insufficient. His secretary had just brought back a book from the temple—a lost book found by the high priest during repairs. After reading the book, the king realized that despite all his religious training, all his faith, all his attempts at doing what he thought was right, he had been wrong. His priests had been wrong. His people had been wrong. This was the book of the law of God which said “You shall have no other God before me” and warned of the curses against Israel if they did not obey the law. The king was now aware of the remaining idols in the temple and all the false gods around the country to whom Judah was making offerings. The Lord’s feasts such as Passover were barely celebrated, and the covenant was forgotten. The king was appalled. This could mean terrible disaster for his nation because, having forgotten God’s law, they were under his wrath. The king convened his highest ranking officials: his secretary, his attendant, the high priest, and a couple of others. He ordered them to inquire of God for himself and the people of Judah to find out what, if anything, could be done.

Now these powerful men are confronted with a crucial question. How should they proceed to ask God? The high priest could go into the temple, make sacrifices of repentance, and hear God’s voice at the altar. Or they could ask a prophet—but which prophet? Should they go to Zephaniah, to Nahum, to Habakkuk maybe, to Jeremiah, or to Huldah? They decide to consult with Huldah and she boldly offered them a word from the Lord. Her message was a difficult one, but one that would generate the most complete revival in the Old Testament: “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart, and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25, TNIV). Her words led to a whole recommitment to God’s covenant, and to a cleaning of the souls, temple and houses of Israel (2 Kings 23:3).

What an affirmation this passage is for the role of women prophets. God entrusted Huldah with his message at a crucial time in the kingdom of Judah. There were other well-known prophets in Judah, but this is the person who spoke for God at such a crucial point in Israel’s history. Nothing in the text indicates that the high officials had any qualms in consulting Huldah. This was no curbside consultation on a secondary matter. They did not send an underling to consult her just in case, nor did they consult her only because she was living close and was the wife of a temple employee. Huldah was a recognized prophet whom they could consult when something as essential as the book of the law of God had been rediscovered. What can be more central than the law in the Old Testament? God did use women as well as men to carry his message to the people, to speak in his name—in both the Old and New Testaments. And it moved God’s people.